Thanks Jamie!

School nights for the girls mean work nights for me. And the nature of my job means I mostly have mornings off but work afternoons and swing by Afterschool care and grab the girls and get home in time for tea, bath and bed. So most dinners are made in the morning (or prepped anyway) to be served as soon as possible after we get home.

And I did that today too. I made a tofu and mince stirfry with leeks, mushrooms and spinach. Not everyone's cup of tea I'm sure but pretty happy Fukase family food.

Then I went to the supermarket and they had shark there.

Real, fairdinkum shark. Flake.

And I couldn't help myself.

I bought three packs of it.

And rushed home, put it in the fridge, went to work, picked up the girls, went home and then started to make fish and chips.

The girls are used to eating as soon as we get home and usually start complaining if dinner takes longer to prepare than it takes them to unpack their bags and wash up for dinner.

But when I said the wait was for fish and chips they were more than happy to wait.

Fish and CHIPS????

Well, I was planning fish and rice and salad but hey, why not.

So, I started cooking.....

and kept cooking.....

and cooking......

Oh my goodness fish and chips takes AGES.

It could have been that I used a small saucepan so I didn't need so much oil.

And then I had bought a LOT of fish...

And then I decided to make chips to boot...

And then I went out and picked the salad....

And finally, a whole hour after bedtime we ate fish and chips and salad.

And noone complained.

Well, almost noone.

Meg thought it was AMAZING.

Amy said it was just like on tv but with no beach or seagulls.

On TV?

Yeah... or maybe it was my dream??

Ummm, nope. That was when we were in Australia. It was real, honey.


(Amy has really vivid dreams and gets her dreams mixed up with reality and tv quite often. It's pretty confusing for her but for the rest of us it's pretty cute.)

K was really impressed.

Wow. This batter is great.

Yeah. New recipe.

It's really flavoursome.

It's Jamie Oliver's recipe.

Hmmmm (no idea.) What's in it?

It's called beer batter.


Beer batter.


Yeah. I used a whole can of beer.


Poor K.

He thought the fish was good but he thought drinking a beer would still have been better.


I don't like beer so I have no qualms about using it for beer batter.

And the fish was really great.

Thanks Jamie!

(I had batter left over so decided to batter K's chips. A little OTT but hey I never fry food so it won't hurt him.)


It's not what it looks like

Two grubby little girls in a bare wooden box.

Is this a UNICEF appeal?

Community Aid Abroad advertising?


Just two girls having a ball playing in the duck house.

I swear.

I mean look at the picture again:

Sure they're grubby and disheveled but A-chan is eating raisin bread and look at Amy's smile. She was having a BALL!

And while it's true there are locks on the house and they were stuck in there at times it was all part of a game of pet shops and they were in and out and in and out again.


I swear.


But they do eat a lot and go through clothes like they are going out of style so if you really want to send donations to help with their upkeep I won't say no.



So, Obaachan using all that butterbur while she was here and me decimating all those edible but unloved jerusalem artichoke and fiddlehead ferns had me feeling a bit guilty and wasteful and I was inspired to make some neburu.

It took me a while but I worked out that neburu is local dialect for nobiru.

And nobiru translates as wild onion.

And so I picked me some wild onions from the massive patch that I have ignored for seven years:

And I washed them and cleaned off the tops and roots and dirt and ended up with this:

OK there were more but that was a during picture.

The refuse bucket looked like this:

Hmmm this not being wasteful is a pretty wasteful business!

But I persevered and ended up with this:

Vinegarred miso neburu. A surprisingly and rather disappointingly small container of the stuff.

And this is what I didn't use:


But hey, I get to feel a little like a forager and can now ignore the edible grasses and mountain veggies and dandelion greens while holding my head high that I have done my foraging duty this season.

Don't worry, I will be back into the foraging spirit by the time the neighbour's chestnuts are falling in my field.


Colonial times

When we started gardening on the patch next door to the house it was pretty big but we were using about half the available land as it was a little over run with nira (flat leafed onion/ chives?) and butterbur and jerusalem artichoke and fiddlehead fern and who knows what else.
All these plants are edible.

They were all planted there by the old woman who gardened here before us.

They all did amazingly well here and multiplied prolifically.

Unfortunately they are all not eaten in any great quantity by us.

So, bit by bit, little by little, metre by metre, we have started to push back the unloved and overabundant veggies to make room for the much loved and less common veggies- sweet potatoes and pumpkins and red onions and leeks and zucchinis and anything that requires a lot more effort to grow than what was there initially.

Because it's just no fun if it's not difficult to grow, right?

This last week we have made some huge progress in reclaiming land and I am feeling all colonial. I can just imagine my ancestors arriving in Australia and bushbashing and scratching out some land from the scrub and all.*

Of course colonising 21st century style is a lot less arduous what with tillers and ploughs and all.

But then it was an Australian who invented the stump-jump plough, hey?**

And so- the new colonies:

Foreground is the new pumpkin patch on the old jerusalem artichoke forest, background is the new sweet potato patch and eventual resting place of the greenhouse that was a fiddle head fern field:

And a closeup of the background above:

*I am not actually sure at all that my relatives were farmers. I think they were teachers. But hey, romanticising history is an Australian speciality.

**completely irrelevant as there are no stumps to jump at all here but ever since I learnt about the stump-jump plough in Year 9 history I have been strangely proud of that Aussie invention and loved the sound of the word. Stump-jump plough. Stump-jump plough.


taue rice planting- YEAH!!!

D-day has arrived!

We planted the rice today.

This year it is 80% koshihikari rice and 20% glutenous mochi rice. Meg and co-farmer W in particular LOVE mochi rice so this is a pretty special season for them. Me? I like my rice brown so either is fine.

K getting tips on the rice planter machine (a year is a long time between goes!)

Filling in the gaps by hand. A LOT easier than last year. When it comes to rice paddies flat is good. And flatter is better!

Lunch break. So as to make the most of rice planting day we take a picnic down there and eat at the side of the paddy. With a 6:30 start time that means W and I are up really early to make lunch for everyone before we get down there.

Finished for the day. We rocked rice planting this year. Finished with the machines by lunchtime and washed and returned them before getting on to duck fencing.


The water is in

The water from the downhill side is going in faster and more easily than the top side. The aze (paddy banks) are not leaking.

Top left corner. This was out of the water for too long and the mud went hard. Very hard to move at all. Need to flood the paddy to a higher level before trying to move mud. Definitely worth using a proper shirokaki rake rather than a garden rake.


Rice paddy shirokaki

Watch out for a rather boring series of rice paddy posts. This blog doubles as my garden diary and I want to know what we did when and how well it went as a record for next year.

Deep shirokaki (paddy ploughing) this year. Too deep, too close to planting time and it will be too soft when we plant. The far left hand corner is a little high this year. Deep patches at front right corner.


Obaachan is here

And so we are turning 13 kilos (yes kilos) of fuki (butterbur) that I less than graciously consider a weed after the delicious butterbur bud (fuki no to) season is over, into preserves.

It's quite the job but ever fear, eager grandchildren are here:
I don't recognise my kitchen anymore.......

Obaachan is an amazing cook. She used to work in the employee cafeteria of a bank and is a whiz at fast, efficient and delicious cooking with an emphasis on seasonality and using every part of an ingredient to reduce waste- carrot leaf rice sprinkles anyone?

Needless to say Obaachan did not share my idea that the fuki are best as a nice green groundcover...

Even when preparation involves peeling the darn skinny little things:

That is one very streamlined operation going on there!

Half the fuki cooking

The finished products- wild fuki on the left and domesticated (?) fuki on the right. There was more- a lot more- but I graciously let Obaachan take the lion's share home.

And why wasn't I helping? I was! I was the one who picked it and ripped the leaves off the stalks.

That's much more my style.


Yeah, I'm a builder!

One of my grade 1 classes is obsessed with Jenga.

Personally I am not really that keen on the game as it takes so loooooong to play, requires masses of patience and you have to be very calm and careful. Absolutely not something that appeals to me at all.

But they love it and will read any number of flashcards, answer any number of questions and write any number of letters (as in ABC not Dear Mum...- we're not that advanced!) for a chance to play Jenga.

And, as before you move a piece you have to answer a question/ ask a question/ read a flashcard, it's a good revue game.

And today even I got excited.

We built a super Jenga tower.

And practiced- your turn, my turn, this one, not that one, slowly! and be careful! While we did it.

Before I submit this to the Guinness World Book I thought I'd share it here:

Do we rock or what, huh?

(Yes, I lead a very un-exciting life...)


Amy on the phone

Amy wanted to call her friend K.

He was absent from school today.

She wanted to call and say that she and R had missed him.

She met K's grandma on the way home from school.

Being Amy she knew it was K's grandma (Amy is a born networker- she knows and remembers everyone's mum, dad, older and younger siblings and it seems even grandparents) and asked for K's phone number.

She wrote it down in her notebook.

K's grandma being a country lass of a certain age only gave her the last four digits. (Everyone in the village used to have the same 2 digit prefix. Now there are too many people and about three different prefixes.)

Amy got home and asked me if she could call K.

Meg quizzed her on how to phone someone.

It involved very polite but complicated Japanese that I have to admit I have to think about before I use it 'Could you please allow me to speak to K' or some such. (I swear it's more complicated in Japanese.)

Amy practiced until she almost had it. (Near enough to express that she was trying to be polite anyway.)

I explained she needed to add two digits to the phone number.

Amy insisted K's grandma only gave her four numbers.

I insisted that it wouldn't work without a prefix.

She tried anyway.

It didn't work.

We tried my way. I could only hear one half of the conversation but it went like this:

Hello. This is Grade 1 class 4, Amy Fukase. May I please speak to K?
K. N. From Grade 1 class 3.
Mmmm (Me saying desperately- YES, YES not MMMMM! in the background)
I called 2403. Is this 2403?
No. I didn't make a mistake. I called 2403.
.... (Me desperately- 'Say sorry I mis-dialed and hang up!)
Are you K's grandma? I talked to you after school. I was walking. You were weeding the flowers. I went to Azusagawa West Kinder. Don't you remember me?
..... (AMY!- say sorry I made a mistake and HANG UP!)
Mmmmmm.. Sorry. Mummy said I have to hang up. Goodbye.

I am not sure who she called but I bet they don't get too many phonecalls like that!


I would do anything for you- but I can't do that

Apologies to Meatloaf.

I have a little boy who's having trouble transitioning from his old (kinder) class to my (Grade 1) class at work. He had one of the other teachers as his kinder teacher and loved English.

Since starting my class he has been really reluctant to come.

He is still pining for his old teacher.

When I ask 'What's your favourite animal?' He answers 'B-sensei!' Poor kid. (And I'm not sure how complimentary that is to B-sensei, either!)

I talked to his mum about what was different.

She couldn't think of anything in particular.

I asked his sister (who's in the same class) what he liked about the other class.


No problem. I can do bingo.

And I did.

And the next week he was still reluctant to come in.

So I asked again "What can I do to help? What do you like about B-sensei?"

"His beard." he answered.


"Gee, that's a bit tricky for Heather-sensei to do...."

"You could do it of you tried!" his sister helpfully suggested.

That is obviously my problem, hey? Just not trying hard enough.


save us from homework- PLEASE!

A lot of parents have the 'my kids won't do their homework, what should I do??' quandry.

Not me.

I have the 'my kids insist on doing their homework- what should I do?' problem.


Well, Amy has already finished her first whole notebook of writing practice. She is doing about 10 pages a day and 20 on the weekends.

And Meg?

Meg has recorder practice homework.

There is no set amount of homework each night. They just need to practice each day and mark on a chart how many times they played their 'song'.

I say 'song' as they only know one note so far.

It's C.

I'm not sure how C sounds on a recorder really. But I am absolutely sure that it does not make a song by itself.

And when Meg decided that she would do her C song fifty times last night I was almost weeping. I was definitely beggig her to stop doing her homework and do something else, you know watch tv, play DS, go out and graffiti the neighbourhood or something.


Well, turn the volume riggghhhhhhht down on your computer and watch this:

(Don't worry, it's only 14 seconds long. And trust me, that's enough.)

And I love that, while the sound is truly cacophonous, Meg has the whole flair recorder swing thing going on. That's my kid!

They are enjoying themselves and that's the main thing, right?


how do you make yours?

Meg likes hers with tomato cheese and mayo:

And of course she serves it herself: (thank you to fabulous sister for the wicked pizza cutter)

Food porn close up:

K and Amy worked together on their creation:

And yes, even with two minds on the job they forgot they needed to make it on the pizza tray. Oops!

Never fear- a three way lift and all's well that ends well, hey? And it's double cheese, corn and mayo:
LOVE how proud Amy looks!

And me? Amy calls mine 'vitamin C pizza' after learning that spinach is a good source of vitamin C at school.

Spinach, fetta, blue cheese and a sprinkling of mozzarella:

After pic:

Pizza two- spinach blue cheese and garlic- I am just so kissable, huh?

Yummy, thin crust and crispy pizza base.

And that's how the Fukase's make their pizzas. And as an irrelevant aside- when in Australia people seem to think Fukase sounds Italian. It was meant to be, huh?


and on and on and on...

Playing mummies with her dolls at almost 2:

At 2 1/2 and 4 1/2:

At 8 1/2 and 6 1/2:

Yes, AMy is going skiing in socks and sandals while carrying her baby in a carry pouch. Bit worried about the baby in the stroller on the seat facing full into the sun, too...

Meg with a baby on her back and another in a sling she fashioned. She was taking them for a walk to get them to nap as they were so grumpy. Sounds familiar actually!

I don't know how long they'll want to play with dolls for but long may it last!


Jack Frost

We had a frost warning.

Frost warnings annoy me.

Frost warnings in mid-May really annoy me.

Frost warnings have a kind of escalation of stages.

A warning on the local news on TV is stage 1. I usually ignore those.

A warning during the scheduled village announcements on the inhouse PA I tend to think 'Hmmm, maybe should do something about that.'

A special broadcast on the outside PA complete with echoes throughout the village?
Even I get panicked then and start taking preventative measures.

And that's what we had and so this is what I did:

The big lumps are where apple crates were placed over taler seedlings (eggplant front left, shishito peppers front right and corn far left). The rest of the sheeting is over smaller seedlings- two rows of barely there corn at the back. We are lucky that it's been so cold that not much has come up. Not lucky it's cold of course but lucky in that frost preparations were kept to a minimum as there was nothing to protect yet!

The bean seedlings in the mulch are frost-hardy as are the spinach, oakleaf lettuce and salad chrysanthymum greens in the front so they were unprotected. You can see the neighbour's field at the back there with their double covered tomatoes and regulation tunnel-covered pumpkins.
Those tunnel covers are a real pain in the butt to set up. Very fiddly. I don't do fiddly so my tomatoes were protected like this:

Cardboard boxes with kindling weights. The eyesore of the neighbourhood I'm sure but hey, it works!

Following the non-regulation theme we covered the raddish, carrot, baby turnip, beet and parsnip seedlings with big blue sheets weighted down with pieces of firewood and a random hoe.

As you do right? The tiller is the big lump at the back.

The main thing I hate about frost preparation is not just that it is a pain setting all the covers up but that you have to get up bright and early the next day to remove them all before you cook your seedlings as the sun heats up the plastic. And even after all that, half the time there isn't even a frost anyway. Grrrrr!

But, up bright and early this morning I removed all the coverings and packed them away neatly and returned all the firewood to the woodpile and was grumbling about bloody time-wasting frost preparations when I looked down and saw this:

A patch of self-sown tomato seedlings. With frost damage! And although it means I won't be transplanting them for free tomato seedlings I was really happy. It put a spring in my step and made me feel the frost preparation drudgery had been all worth it after all. Yeah for frost damage!


excursion drama

Today was the backup day for excursion.

It was forecast to rain in the afternoon (when they would be on the home stretch back to school) and we woke up to glorious sunshine.

So, made two more packed lunches, found drink bottles, rubbish bags, picnic sheets, sports uniforms, raincoats, bandaids, Meg's allergy meds, hand towels, pencil cases (if the excursion was cancelled they would stay at school and do handouts.)

The girls got dressed, packed their bags, and headed off to school full of hope and excitement.

Meg was wearing the regular t-shirt under your jumper so you can take the jumper off if you get hot.

Any on the other hand decided that it would look better to wear long underwear under your t-shirt. As her long underwear is patterned (her choice) she took the extra step of turning it inside out so it was all white 'so it won't stand out.' I ventured the opinion that seeing the tag and seams of an inside-out shirt might look more odd than a sprinkle of small pink flowers but what would I know, right?

And off they went.

And as I was doing the morning chores I kept glancing outside and looking at the fabulous weather and thinking how lucky they were and what a great time they must be having.

And then literally with a crash it all changed. About 10 oclock there was a huge thunder clap and it started bucketing down.

Not a great picture but you can see the rain gushing out of the drainpipe onto the roof.

Nooooooooo!!! They leave the school at 8:30 walking. By 10 they are a good way along their trek. Poor kids.

I kept checking my phone for messages and listening out for the village-wide PA but nothing.

The rain let up and the sun came out again. Ahhhh, at least they'll dry out and enjoy their picnic, thought I.

But noooooo, it was a brief respite and by lunchtime it was bucketing down again.

Meg's class were dismissed at the excursion site (a park up the road from here) and walked home from there. She arrived home about 1:30 (and it was sunny again- weird weather) with squishy shoes and boiling hot (she couldn't be bothered taking off her jumper and was all sweaty. Weird kid.) They had made it to the park before the rain, had a play, sought cover during the first downpour and then eaten inside a park meeting hall when the second one hit.

All in all it went pretty good for grade 3.

And Grade 1?

Not so lucky.

They are littler, walk more slowly, were heading to a different park and most didn't pack their own bags.

When the thunder hit some kids started crying.

When it started raining they all had to stop, take off their bags, get out their rain coats, do up their bags again and put their rain jackets on on top of their bags. Some kids had drink bottles slung across their chests as well. Aparently it took an age for all the kids to complete this coating up and three kids didn't have raincoats. Well, it turned out one kid didn't and two didn't think they did as it was packed at the bottom of their bag. Having got completely drenched they made their way to the park and split up (there're 160 odd of them) into classes and ate lunch under every available cover. Amy's class was on the balcony of the radio controlled car area. Another class was in the covered area below them. It certainly must have been squishy!

Amy opened her bag and started crying. Her backpack has a clip on separate cool bag for your lunch box. I suggested that there was plenty of room in the main bag and we just put it in there but nooooo Amy wanted to do it properly and so clipped her lunch on the back of her bag.

And the boy walking behind her in the Matilda line all the way to the park hadn't been able to resist flicking the bag up and down and up and down as they walked.

The result was the lid came off her lunchbox and her lunch went everywhere in her bag. Luckily it was all contained in the cool bag, nothing was in sauce, and the smallest piece was a soy bean but still, she was really upset that her lunch looked so messy that she burst into tears.

Then, as if that wasn't enough, half way through lunch it started bucketing rain again and the teachers decided to make a run for it back to school. The kids were all told to stop eating and re-pack their bags. Some kids eat slow and hadn't eaten much at all yet. Some kids have a school-driven fear of not eating all your lunch and were worried this would count as that.

Amy's teacher is sweet and was walking around telling kids to keep that half eaten rice ball out and pack everything else and they would eat the rest back at school kind of thing.

One of the other teacher's was a little more direct and started yelling to pack up NOW!

Cue more crying.

And so it was that a soggy, sniffling, squishy-shoed and bedraggled line of Grade 1s made it back to school. Those with clothes to change into did so (Grade 1's have the option of keeping clothes at school for 'accidents' and you know, when they fall into a rice paddy on the way to school or get super sweaty playing chasey or whatever...) and they finished their lunches and the teacher read them a story and they all came home in their inside shoes (shock! horror!) as their sneakers were literally dripping.


And with a warm drink and some oatmeal pancakes and soup for tea and a warm bath Amy got a bit of her pep back but has decided she is never going on excursion again.

I'm sure she will but today's was certainly not an excursion they'll forget in a while, huh?


watch this space

A bucket of water, an empty bubble container, a piece of wire, some bacon fat and a stick.

If it works I will be sad and guilty and grossed out.

If it doesn't work I will remain a little scared and nervous and grossed out.

Watch this space!


yeah for yaezakura!

I thought I had missed taking a picture of the girls with cherry blossoms this year.

Just too busy and then never at the right place at the right time in the right weather and all that.

I was feeling a bit disappointed that I'd missed the annual - 'look, that must be the girls in Golden Week' dating picture.

But I forgot yaezakara!

Yeah for yaezakura! It starts blossoming when everything else is finishing up.

And it's beautiful.

Really beautiful with double and seemingly triple blossoms. It looks like pink pom poms everywhere.

And I haven't got the usual picture of them all dressed up in their pretty dresses and posing and all that. Mush easier to organise that kind of picture when they were little and less able to put their protests into words and I dressed them anyway!

These days it's a matter of negotiation to get them towear anything they haven't chosen themselves.

But this year's picture was pretty easy.

As I took it on the way home from school fancy duds didn't even come into the equation.

So I didn't bother with proper poses either.

And so I give you yaezakura and girls- as they are and will be:


The most exciting thing I did on my holidays

First day back at work and school.

Meg had to write a page in her workbook about her holiday.

Amy had to draw a picture about her holiday.

On our holiday we had those BBQ dinners every night, they made money picking dandelions, they both had friends over to play, we made chocolate biscuits and cinnamon rolls, we went on walks and bike rides and they played Japanese chess with K and memory with me etc etc.

Did either of them write about any of this, though?


What did they think was the most exciting thing about their holidays?

Well, I'll copy out Meg's diary entry for you:

"Title: We went to COCOS

On Sunday my mum and dad and my little sister Amy and I went to COCOS*. I was a bit nervous and very excited. I'd never been to COCOS before. They had a big menu. It was fun. They had a drink bar. It was delicious. I had lots and lots of drinks. I want to go to COCOS again. I recommend COCOS to you sensei. Oh, by the way, I ate a kid's lunch."


I mean it's true that we didn't even leave the mountain for three days in a row during the holiday but we had lots of fun I thought.

Oh well, on the upside it only costs 500 yen to make the girls' day, huh?

*For mum and dad- COCOS is a chain of family restaurants. Really not that exciting. Oh, and they have been before. A couple of years ago but still.


Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

I decided to see how Aussie I could make our Golden Week holiday.

I set myself a challenge to bbq our tea every night.

And I did it!

Yeah! Feeling very Australian, somehow.

I forgot to take all the pictures but we had:

marinated fish

Chicken breast fillets

Japanese style yakiniku


ginger pork


Brazilian sausages.

These are amazing! All meat and spices and no cereals or fillers. Yummmmmmm.

Even when we gardened right through till 6pm and dusk we BBQed.

And managed to eat by 6:30.


My fabulous two stage BBQ system of course!

We have so much wood here we don't need to be careful about how much we use (and of course the only way to BBQ is over wood!) So I make a small campfire with dry apple wood and then just shovel the coals into the BBQ and hey presto it's BBQ time!

Here's to a long and delicious BBQ season.